Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shooting the Lunar Eclipse - December 20th-21st 2010

All right then. So I decided to stay up late, early or whatever depending on who's point of view, to capture this phenomenon that we know as the full lunar eclipse. Simply put, the "blue marble" (a.k.a. this big ball you are sitting on that we sometimes call "Earth") gets in front of the sunlight and blocks the full moon from being lit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A movie now in pre-production.

So every once in a while, along comes a story. It may be fiction, it may be fact. But when it is a good story, it deserves some attention. So along with some people (producers), the writer and myself (cinematographer, editor and compositor) we set out to create a movie trailer in hopes of getting this funded and fully produced. All I can say is "stay tuned" at this point. One never knows where the project may end up. But here is a little "eye candy" and a teaser to start. Enjoy. (best viewed at full screen):

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review - Sony Vegas 10 – It’s fast, it’s stable*, it’s solid*

I have now been using Sony Vegas for quite a few years. Looking back, one must wonder how we ever did the stuff we did. I am not going to get into all the details of what has changed, been added, yada yada, on this new version, but rather focus on its stability instead. Did I mention its fast? In any case, you can get a full list of all the improvements and features at Sony Creative Software (opens a new window).  I am going to focus on something else. Did I mention it is blazing fast? 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The never ending discussion about frame rates and lots more...

Not too long ago I was involved in a discussion about frame rates and this and that with a local "Indy" guy. He was showing off his T2i and some home made rig stuff. He talked about what they were shooting etc... and then he said the words that to me sounded like someone was pulling their fingernails across a blackboard. "We shoot at 24 frames for that cinematic effect." - Huh? Are you kidding me? So I asked for him to explain the "cinematic effect" to me. Basically, what does the "cinematic effect" look like? Or, what do you mean by "cinematic effect"? I waited.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened today - See historical stock footage here.

So the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened today. (See article)- Just so happens that I have and own outright some very cool stock footage of the construction phases of this bridge. Need to do some documentary on this bridge? Are you listening History Channel? Science Channel? National Geographic? Come and get it! Just click on the widget below:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poptent.com contest for Wonderul Pistachios - #2

Yes, I submitted an entry for this as well.

Poptent.com contest for E-Trade - my submission

Poptent.com is one of those fun places where one can compete with real commercial productions on behalf of their clients. This client, E-Trade, basically is looking for new E-Baby scripts. Hence, they provided a ton of footage (raw) of the babies for use. Of course this was for visualization only and would never be perfect. More along the lines of  "story boarding" as opposed to a finished production. But it works and helps make a point. The assumption is that they would shoot the final version themselves once the winning script is announced. So of course, I just had to compete for several reasons.

1. It is always good to exercise the brain and write. Particularly when it comes to time restrictions in not only competition deadline time, but also production length time. This one is 25 seconds (30 seconds total is my guess for the final - but I followed the rules and gave them 25 including their logo goods.)

2. Hey, it's a competition! Who knows, I might win. (Big bucks on this one too!)

3. Doing any production for any purpose is always great practice and really helps in honing the skills.

4. Hey, I compete to win. And maybe, just maybe I have a chance.

5. Regardless of the outcome, it always feels good to have accomplished something.

6. Did I mention that there is a possibility of winning?

In any case, this was challenging to say the least. I worked my brain for a couple of weeks and well, could only say; "I got nothing". 25 seconds of nothing. A challenge that should be so "easy" and I got nothing. Frustrating to say the least.

Then on the last day of the competition... lo and behold.... I got something. Maybe it was all my wife's fault for putting up that sign in the bathroom. Figure it out. It was one of our inside jokes for a couple of weeks. And yes, she is the female voice for this entry. This is not a "public vote" type of competition. The client makes the winning choice. But that could also be a good thing in my favor. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Demo reel for commercial stock footage and production work - Part A

Well I suppose it is about time, eh? This demo reel shows not only some goodies from my stock footage libraries, but also some of the capabilities I have in regards to effects creation, logo manipulation and all around "eye candy" generation. The simple fact is that in today's world, one must get super creative and set the bar higher and higher. (That last phrase could be some new lyrics for a pop hit.) - In any case, hopefully this does the job of showing off some of the skill sets right here and now. 100% created by me, from graphical coolness to footage galore. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photographer's Rights - and my memory...

So once again, a friend of mine asked me about what a photographer's rights are? I knew I had an answer, but had to dig for it.

So here it is... Of course this applies to anyone with a device that takes pictures, whether still or in motion. Hence, yes, it applies to cinematographers or videographers as well.

I am now posting this on my blog for two reasons:

1. My memory sucks. Therefore, I have to search and hunt this down every time someone asks.
2. It's a "cool blog entry of value" (CBEOV - love those acronyms) and hence is a place I can send people to. Of course then they also get to see all my other cool stuff. Yeah, I know, real sneaky on my part.

So here it is, courtesy of an attorney by the name of Bert P. Krages II (this will open a new window). Not only has he clearly defined the rights, but also has made them available for download in PDF format (you might want to simply right click this and do a "save as") so that you can carry this with you at all times.

So the next time someone tries to give you a hard time for standing on a sidewalk and shooting a sunset, or whatever, whip this document out and make them read it. The law is on your side!

Watch out cops and "wanna be" officials - we "picture takers", "filmers", "shooters", "photogs", "b-roll artists", "stock dudes", "camera guys", "camera gals", are well armed with the law in our pocket!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wild and crazy monsoon storm finally makes it this year!

These shots came about in a little over 3 hours of shooting. Amazingly enough, this time 'round it was like "shooting fish in a barrel". :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

New Storm Stock Footage now available...

Exclusively available through and at Pond5.com from me, the renown and crazy storm chaser. 

Here is a sampling video for ya:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The First 2010 Monsoon that showed its true flare...

Basically this year has been a weak monsoon season in regards to light shows. A couple of weeks ago we had one night of true illumination. Fortunately the vantage point helped as well. Nothing like getting up high with a known view of the mountain ranges around Tucson, yet still safe. I can't emphasize enough that the "safe" part is one of the most crucial components of shooting such wonders. Lightning photography is not for the amateur that knows no common sense. Think about it. You are working usually with this item called a tripod. Tripods make for great lightning rods. So if you attempt this, the very least you should be doing is staying as far away as possible to get the shot. These shots were a good 20 miles from the source. Lenses help. However, these were all shot with a 50mm/F1.2. So you don't need to zoom in either. If you do so, chances are that "Murphy" will make you aim at the wrong spot anyway. Lightning is too unpredictable to even try to zoom in on. Some of the shots (towards the end) do show just how far reaching lightning can be. What I call the "golden arch" shows one long bolt reaching from the end of one mountain range (Rincons) to the end of the other (Catalinas) - A whopping approximate 15 miles! So all I can say is, be careful. Don't go at it alone. And keep your distance. Now enjoy:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 2010 Monsoon Season Kickoff

Well, well. The 2010 monsoon season finally kicked off. The video above is just a sampling of what's coming. From growing rainbows to gigantic thunderheads to powerful lightning strikes on the horizon. It's a frenzy! Stay tuned.

P.S. The footage you see is also available now as stock footage:

Search Stock Video by Andreas Hohl
arrowView Andreas Hohl's Artist Profile on Pond5

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moby's new hit - Wait for Me - Music Video Contest

Just a quick piece of shameless self promotion. My music video entry, check it out and vote (hopefully for mine!):

(clicking on these links will open a new window for you.)


Friday, March 5, 2010

My stuff in a newly released motion picture!

Sometimes, in the stock footage industry one gets real lucky. Let me explain. In the stock footage industry, us shooters simply provide so-called "b-roll" or "second unit" footage. The way it works is fairly simple. We shoot whatever suits us at any given time. And what I mean here is literally what suits us! We go out and about not really knowing if it will ever sell or if it has a use. We only take our best guess and "shut up and shoot!" Of course, we try to find or shoot things that make some sense. Or perhaps they might have subject matters to do with current events. Sometimes we just shoot because we want to see how far we can push the limits. I do this every year as the monsoons roll in. I shoot lots of storm footage, lightning, cloud formations and whatever else that might just be really exciting to look at. Having done so, it sometimes feels like a crap shoot. :) Pun intended.

Through the various agencies, these clips get sold at random. We usually never know who is buying what. But what makes this somewhat interesting is that every once in a while we actually get to see our stuff on TV, or in a motion picture. Very cool. I have been fortunate enough to spot some of my stuff (as well as fellow artists' stuff) on various shows. For example, over the last year having watched the Weather Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Science Channel, The History Channel and even the local news, I have been fortunate enough to actually recognize some of my stuff. (As well as other fellow artists' stuff.) I suppose there is a really proud feeling when this happens. Bragging rights of course! But most of all, it helps build credibility. Think about it. We "stock shooters" are constantly behind the camera and every time we shoot something, we learn new tactics, techniques and concepts. I call this "camera wrangling". We learn or stumble upon our own little "secrets" of how to get a shot. Chances are, we, as a collaborative have more experience, knowledge and hours behind a camera than most of the cinematographers in Hollywood. Okay, maybe not but totally debateable. But we are all damn good at what we do. And the proof of this is when someone actually buys your stuff. Even better proof is when someone buys your stuff and makes it a point to let you know they bought your stuff. Very cool.

Well, this has now happened. And to say the least, it is a very cool feeling to not only hear from them, that they bought your stuff. But for them to actually tell you what they will use it for, the scene it should be in etc... This is a real ego booster to say the least. But more importantly, it inspires one to keep on shooting, no matter what!  So to make a long story short - about a year ago this clip was purchased by an independent production company (in the UK):

Important Note: You too can own this clip. No, actually, since you are reading this, you have to buy this clip. Otherwise you won't be able to prove to your friends what is listed below. Purchase it here. :)

Now fast forward to today, and yes, they gave me a "heads up" that the movie has been released in Europe, but is also available on Amazon already for the US. So, here is what I recommend to all that read this:

1. Purchase the movie ASAP!
2. Purchase a second copy for your friends, again ASAP!
3. In case your movie gets damaged, purchase a backup copy for yourself, also ASAP!
4. Watch the movie, admire the most elaborate cinematography you have ever seen and take note that you can tell your friends that you read the guy's blog about how this all came to be and how you know exactly where in the movie his clip is. (Hint: over the cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle) - And you know this because you left comments at this guy's blog, and you are now really close friends with this guy and you have bragging rights for even knowing this guy and ... and.... and NO, I won't verify your claims to anyone! :)
5. Purchase the stock footage clip above as evidence that you know me. Maybe then I will back you on your claims of knowing me. NO, not really. But buy the clip anyway. :)

But just click on the box cover below and buy the damn movie. It's going to be one of those smash hits soon anyway, so why not have it before it's all sold out?

Available on Blue-Ray and DVD! Buy now! Really, buy this masterpiece now!

03/12/10 - UPDATE:

Finally got the movie in. Did a quick preview. Actually from the looks of it, it is quite a twisted story and done very well. The title "Triangle" (a.k.a. The Bermuda Triangle) implies "another one of those" - but it definitely is not another "one of those". Actually a very well thought out twisted story line. - I did recognize my footage and it is at one of the highlights of the storyline. (3 times even at about 1 to 2 seconds each.) I am always amazed how the compositors make use of footage. If I didn't know what I was looking for, I would have missed it. :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

32 bits - it's all alpha baby!

So I am absolutely astounded at how little is actually discussed about alpha channels and such, in the post production industry. It seems to be a deep abyss of information, or vice-versa, the information keeps falling into an abyss. Being in the stock footage biz, I always get really ticked off at some of the houses that can't accept a full 32 bit depth video file. We know these files as pre-keyed, alpha-keyed, masked, whatever the heck you want to call them. They show up in the Quicktime (.mov) world as files that were created in progressive mode a la rendering using the png or animation codec portions. But the funny thing is, many forget to turn on the damn "RGB plus Alpha" when doing this. It's like who is this guy Alpha anyway? And why is no longer in Beta? Yes, that was "punny". I know.

So let's first start with this guy named "Alpha". After all he is the invisible or transparent brother of Red, Green and Blue. (Okay, Photoshop guys, this also can apply to you.) But before we go there, let's get to brass tacks about computer stuff. Stuff such as bytes. Hungry? If you remember (and this applies only to people that are younger than 50 and/or worked at a company like IBM), a byte consists of 8 bits. Hence, 8 bits equals a byte, 2 bytes equals too much food, and 4 bytes equals the full depth of an RGBA rendered file. Hence, red (8 bits), green (8 bits), blue (8 bits) and Alpha (8 bits) - darn, there is that Alpha dude again. But, really, this is called a 32 bit depth file. As in 4 x 8 = 32!

So how come 8 bits for Alpha? Well, you see, back in the day, 2 bits equaled a quarter, hence 8 bits was a buck. Confused? You should be. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything about Alpha channel. But think about it. If you only got 3/4 of a buck (a.k.a. 6 bits), you can't even get something off of the Dollar Menu at Micky D's. So perhaps that last quarter may mean something yet. In video terms it means a heck of a lot!

Back to the 8 bit thing. Eight (8) bits basically gives, in computer terms, 256 variations of something. (a.k.a. 0-255) Could it be brightness? Could it be transparency? Could it be a shade value? Perhaps it delivers a bit of all of these. But that doesn't matter for this topic right now. The key is that there are 4 of these 0-255's if you include an alpha channel. So what the heck for, this alpha thingy? It's transparent! You can't even see it! So why even worry about it? Well, you can't see the air either and yet you need it to live. Don't you? Video files can do amazing things if they are beyond the typical 24 bits (3/4's remember? or instead of 32 bits). For one, they can grow really nicely into fat plump and juicy files. Yes, they are bit bigger than your standard 24 bit depth file. But they are well worth it.

Here for example is a standard 24 bit file:

Notice how the penny covers the silver dollar? Actually it is a video layer track that gets re-sized as the clip plays. The silver dollar appears only a "bit", pardon the pun. Looks pretty useless. Or I suppose one could say this is the value of our assets now.... you know... "penny on the dollar". Okay, so shoot me. :)

Here is the same thing, but with 32 bits, and, yes, you guessed right, an Alpha channel:

This is actually the exact same clip as the one before, but with the Alpha channel fully activated. So much nicer. And notice how the dollar seems to grow. Wishful thinking I suppose.

The final message here? The government will spend a dollar to save a penny? No. But more importantly, 8 bits needs to be seen (or not seen - i.e. transparent), to show 8 bits more clearly. Get it?

All right then. Now that you see the concept, stay tuned for mere detail in future blog entries right here! I will cover this topic in great detail as it is one of the more important topics to understand if you are going to be doing some cool video work. Aside from that, having this knowledge could actually yield you several 8 bits in your wallet. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cheating: Turning a DSLR into a powerful motion picture camera.

When ever people see this type of footage of mine,

they always go "ooooh" and "ahhh" and then it never fails... the question arises; "how'd you do that?"

Of course there are occasions where simply put, you let a camera roll for 20 minutes up to an hour (tape length) or so and then speed things up in post production. This is somewhat a long process and sometimes can yield weird results as well. For me, this does work after hours of experimentation, fighting with artifacts, hick-ups and ...

But a really clean way and also a very super hi-res way is with my handy dandy Canon Rebel series DSLR. But really any brand of DSLR will work as long as it has a so called "bulb mode". Sort of. Let me explain why you don't want to settle for less than that feature. Please note, I am not talking about the new DSLR's that also have HD video features. I am talking about "run of the mill" DSLR's that only take still shots.

Look, I am not telling you to go out and by a new camera for the sake of a new camera if you don't have that "bulb mode" - you can still do this process. But I can tell you, you will get some weird results by going fully auto on everything.

By not having "bulb mode" and going auto everything, you will get different light settings (brightness), shutter speed, f-stop, focal length etc.. for each frame depending on the action in frame. If a dark car is in frame, the camera will compensate and try to balance the whole shot... but that car no longer exists in the next frame, so guess what? Understand? It will take a bit to get used to. Of course sometimes this might actually make for some good "grunge style" stuff. :) Here is an example of this:

So, by having bulb mode, you can now concisely control the consistency from frame to frame. Hence, you won't get any of those irregular bright flashing, drive you insane and may trigger an epileptic attack feature. Here is what a smooth session looks like with everything manually locked in:

I know this is a subjective call, but this last or prior clip really works even with the stray light and shadows. Hence the changes in light had no effect on the camera settings because they were locked in. Cool? Or in other words, if this was on automatic, it would have been a good half hour of my life that I would never have gotten back.

So moving right along, what else do you need to be successful with this method? So here are some camera possibilities:

Here is a very important, no, mandatory device you will need - and make sure it works with your camera model. These devices are called timers, remotes, intervalometers, incronometers and probably many other scientific names.. but here is a good variety for starters:

And last but not least, you need something to hold that camera super still:

As an alternative to tripods, I have been known to use sandbags, the type we use as weights or counter weights on lighting equipment and I have also used a plastic bag filled with packing popcorn, but the best is a strong cloth bag filled with real popcorn seeds. This will easily "grab" and hold the camera nicely as long as you don't overfill it. If you use a bag of this nature, do not set it on a car hood, roof or anything that can even slightly move or shake from the wind (or people getting in or out of, while slamming the door). (Experience talking here!) - It's a real problem when you have the camera moving, particularly if you use things like, oh, let's say a 400mm zoom lens.

In any case - this is just one method to make your digital still shot camera become a very powerful video camera. Very cool indeed. Stay tuned.. there will be more to come on this topic.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lie to Me? - Not just a TV show...

Perhaps you have seen that television show called Lie to Me (opens a new window) with Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth)? Amazingly enough, there is a real science behind this whole thingamabob. Actually, it is very accurate as well. You see, your face, your eyes, your lips and even your forehead all talk very clearly even when you are not. You could just simply be sitting there, not uttering a word and yet, you like everyone else is an open book.

So why am I writing about this? Well... as I am always on the quest for new challenges in regards to shooting b-roll or stock footage, I made this exact science my new challenge. Sort of. I actually had been doing this for quite a while, but never really thought about it this way. The challenge; take a face, and get that face in umpteen various moods, emotions, feelings, reactions and every other Human Emotional Verb (HEV - a new acronym that I just made up.) you can think of. I like that acronym - don't knock it! It actually has real meaning. Now to get those meanings on film... hmmm..
Challenging, but not unrealistic. See for yourself:

Or simply click here and look at the entire collection of this specific and cool concept.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A humorous look at reality...

Today I was cleaning up some stuff in my email. I hate doing that. I hate dealing with all the spam, spam filters, spammers and .... well you probably know what I mean.

Looking in my spam filter(s) folder(s) which I encourage everyone to do now and then, I found stuff that should never have reached those folders! It is quite annoying when you set up "rules" and the F&$^%ing software does stuff on its own and changes the "rules", again. This comes from inharmonious multiplex filtration organisms. Or what I call IMFO. Sounds close to INFO, but it's not. It is a 3 year old saying INFO actually. Okay, I made this all up. There is no such thing. IMFO.. ha ha - or is there? Actually that's what I call it. It simply has to do with the first spam filter on the server, then another 2 filters in the local system. It is almost as if they are fighting each other. Screw it. That's not what this article is about anyway. Here is the real topic:

So I find some stuff in my spam folders that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Stuff from the really cool and informative Creative Cow (opens a new window). So I grabbed all the last few month's Creative Cow emails, and marked them as "not spam", and "not junk" and now going forward hopefully, I will get these things again. But here is what was actually fun about this. It gave me a chance to review the various emails and have a quick look. Of course humor is always good. I like that. So here is one from last July. This is a funny reminder of what we get to deal with day in and day out. Quite simply, it it probably the most realistic version of a contract ever! :)

Template contract for typical beginners. Modify to your specific needs.

I, (name here) henceforth to be referred to as "the dummy", will contract to work on your ill-defined project for an unspecified amount of hours, with no limitations on how many times I will re-do the work, until you are satisfied, for a single, fixed, fee, payable by third-party out-of-state check, only once and long after you have been completely satisfied, and after you yourself (henceforth to be known as "the client") have made any and all profit from the use of this work, but not if the project incurs no profits. Profits to be determined by Client's verbal say-so. Client will decide when and if to pay for services rendered on a flexible net-2000 basis, with free extensions.

(will take you to the actual thread at Creative Cow and opens a new window)


Friday, January 8, 2010

The "jobs" quandary... really, how's it looking?

I stumbled across this interesting graphical representation of just how fierce the situation is in regards to the economic impact on jobs in the US. A very simple to understand graphical display of the job cycle in the regions of the US - when you get to this page - just hit the play button - no need to explain further. (clicking on this link will open a new window.)

Okay, so if you actually looked at this graphical presentation, you might actually start feeling a bit queasy. I sure did. But regardless, life goes on and so should we. So I started a new idea, (actually fairly old in my mind, but was too pre-occupied with other stuff to implement sooner.)

I started running an ad on one of the common or popular places. This will not only be interesting to see how people will respond, but it will also give me a good idea of where people's heads are at. The ad is really simple in concept. Being a stock shooter of sorts, I am always looking out for new faces, people, things etc.. But now I figure it would behoove me to actually let them come to me. After all, there is an actual potential fiscal upside for anyone that gets involved. I will be doing most of the work. And all I am asking is that they follow through with one thing... to show up when you say you are going to show up.

Maybe I am also planning a mission to disprove the myth that all models, actors and wannabe's are flakes. I'll keep you posted. But in the mean time, I keep shooting and producing - that's what I do regardless. Here is some of my latest goods from just last night (Tucson at dusk available at Pond5 Stock Footage ):

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year - New Thoughts - New ambitions...

Happy New Year everyone! Okay. Now that's done. :)

I wanted this blog to be somewhat informative and newsworthy. Looking back over the prior year, it seems to be a bit bear naked. Meaning... not enough interesting information perhaps? In any case - this year that will (hopefully) change! And why will it change? All because of something that flew into my domain on New Year's day.

You see, sometimes while checking out the comment boards or forums at one of my favorite places, Pond5 Stock Footage (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.), I get really lucky. My goal is to always look for gold. No, not that kind... let's call it a golden nugget. On the first day of this year, I stumbled on this thread in the forum (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.) where a fellow artist asked for help. Not uncommon. That's what we are all here for. To help each other. I digress. In any case, I clicked on the link of his video and looked at it. While watching I noticed some pretty cool stuff around it. Another blog! Of course his verbiage in the video was pretty enlightening as well.

Fast forward: So I watched the video, voted for it, but was detrimentally sidetracked during the process. I was more interested in all the stuff "around" it. Hence, I was intrigued, excited, amused and ... In any case, I wanted to get the book now! Only problem - it was New Years Day! Damn it. No stores open. Amazon was still several days for delivery. And so on..

Fast Forward 2: January 2nd - got it! The book now in my hands from a local book store. (Got it off the "blow out shelf" too - as that wasn't a sign!) - In any case, I couldn't put it down. Read the whole thing. Got inspired. Got motivated. Even did the first batch of exercises. (This blog entry being one of them.)

To save us all a lot of time: Just get the book:

Now, why the heck would I write a blog about this and what the heck does it have to do with video, photo, stock etc..? Absolutely everything! Even us guys that think we know it all, need a refresher and a wake up call every once in a while. So this was mine and it couldn't have been at a better time. Thanks again holtocw (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.) (a.k.a. Chuck Holton of liverfire.us (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.)
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